Perhaps most famous for inventing "the body", one of the most practical items of clothing to come out of the Eighties, Donna Karan is now one of the most recognisable names in American fashion.
Born Donna Faske in Forest Hills, NY, in 1948, to a model mother and a haberdasher father, Donna was obsessed with fashion from an early age. After two years at Parsons School of Design, she went to work at Anne Klein, making moderately priced sportswear. In 1971, she became associate designer and, after Klein died in 1974, co-designer with Louis Dell'Olio. Ten years later, and with the support of her husband Steven Weiss, Karan founded Donna Karan New York.
Launched in 1985, her first collection, though not radical, delivered a system of dressing entirely new to those used to Eighties power suits. She combined elements of tailoring with sportswear to ensure clothes were "user-friendly and luxurious", as well as deeply flattering. Her clothes are rarely headline-grabbing, but always easy-to-wear in a luxurious blend of cashmeres and Lycras and a sophisticated palette dominated by blues and blacks. Karan is also regarded as being one of the chief innovators of the bridge line: in 1988, she introduced the cheaper DKNY label in an attempt to dress her daughter, Gaby. Today, Karan's company also produces menswear, jeans, accessories, hosiery, fragrance and cosmetics.
In April 2001, Karan announced that she had sold her company, Donna Karan International, to French luxury conglomerate LVMH for almost $250 million in cash. LVMH had previously acquired Karan's license-holding company, Gabrielle Studio, bringing the total value of the sale to $643 million. Following the news, LVMH decided to relocate this most American of American companies to Italy.